The endearing song of some small bird pulled me, I had to see the source. I trotted down a narrow, stone street, these streets were all made for traffic of the two wheeled or two legged kind. I was fortunate because only a sparse gathering of morning shoppers ambled near the shops and didn’t slow me down.
Now the singing rang pure and true. I turned the corner and there he was–food, water, and a wooden cage–up high on the outside wall of a coffee shop. I stood, he sang, I listened.
I heard some murmurs behind me and looked. Three elderly men dressed in traditional clothing sipped their glasses of coffee. One rose and came over to me.
“This is my bird, you like him?”
“His song is wonderful. You’re fortunate to have him”
“I own this coffee shop,” the man said, “and he sings for us every morning.”
“May I take his picture?”
My trusty guide book said if a Moroccan does a kindness for you, you should offer him/her a small Euro in thanks. I also knew not to take photos without permission.
He beamed and held his hand out toward the cage.
I took only one photo, reached in my pocket and closed my fingers around a Euro. I pulled my hand out and held it toward him with my fingers still closed. He was smiling at me and took the token.
When he opened his hand and saw what I had given him, he scowled and thrust it back to me.
“We like U.S. Americans. We are good people, we like the U.S.A. They are the only ones who come and help if people need help. We do not take your money.”
I put my hand to my heart and nodded my head to him in gratitude and murmured an apology. My face burned red.
In Motril, Spain, we stopped in a little tavern off the plaza after watching the festivities of children who threw water balloons, danced, sang and sold food to raise funds for a charity. The afternoon was a scorcher. We sipped icy drinks and loved not being out in the sun.
The man who waited on us asked us where we were from. We told him we were from New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States. He smiled and said he’d be right back. A few minutes later he returned with little dishes of something hot. Can you imagine two inch squares of scalloped potatoes that were fried? Unbelievable.
He said his mother owned the shop and made these for special people. They loved Americans and were so pleased we would stop in their tavern.
We were told this over and over in many different countries during our twenty-seven day trip. My favorite encounter of all was in Kotor, Montenegro. I went into a small shop and found the perfect Italian made summer dress for my sixteen year old Granddaughter’s birthday.
In my head I fussed about the size. The young sales clerk asked me if she could help and I told her my concern. I told her my Granddaughter was about her size, but a little taller.
She slipped it on over her clothes and said, “What do you think?”
“I think you’ve made me quite happy.”
She smiled at me and said, “You know, we have many tourists come to our city from all over the world, and every day we have many people from many countries who come in our shop. We love Americans the best because they are always the happiest people in the whole world.”
What I’ve learned is you can’t trust the guide books to save you from embarrassments, and, obviously, our national media colors our perception of what the rest of the world thinks of us.
What I cherish from my travels are these little things you don’t see or read in books: how not to offend a person of a different culture, fried scallop potatoes given to us free just because they like us, U.S. citizens being the most happy tourists of all, how they appreciate America always coming to aid other countries, and naturally, all the comments about the respect and caring they have for the citizens of the U.S. A.
Many other little tidbits come to mind, but I want to know what I’ve missed. If you’ve had little unexpected moments that delighted you or made you stop and rethink during your travels, I bet we’d all love to hear.
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Miss Charlene: You would be my designated ambassador to the world if ever I were elected president. Knowing you as I do, I’m confident you could travel anywhere, and charm the socks off anyone, just as you did on this trip. If these people have a good opinion of Americans, it’s thanks to you, and all those incredible travelers just like you. You display the curiosity and inquisitiveness of a child, and the grace and charm of a wise woman. What better qualities could we send out into this world to represent us so well!
Oh my, Pat. You do make me blush. Sometime when I’m feeling a wee bit down I’ll have to remember your words; they’ll certainly chase away any gloom. Thank you so much.